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What are the aesthetic differences between the two strands of modernism

covered in the poetry unit? What kinds of historical and social events influenced art between the world wars, and how did these events shape poetry?

Modernism: A literary movement that reached its peak in the 1920s, modernism developed in two rather different strands. American modernism, as practiced by Williams and Hughes, is characterized by an interest in portraying ordinary subject matter in concrete, vernacular language. Modernist poetry written in Europe, as characterized by Eliot, tends to be highly allusive. The poems are nonlinear and often refer to the modern condition, particularly the city, in a deeply critical manner. This strand of modernism tends to use a disembodied voice and a collage-like method.

Additional Poems Allowed to Include:
T.S. Eliot – “The Waste Land”
Robert Frost – “The Road Not Taken” and “Fire and Ice”
Claude McKay – “Harlem Shadows” and “America”
Langston Hughes – “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “Theme for English B” and “I, Too”
William Carlos Williams – “To a Poor Old Woman,” “Red Wheelbarrow,” “This Is Just to Say”

2 UNIT 10, RHYTHMS IN POETRY Authors and Works Featured in the Video: T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (poem) Langston Hughes, “The Weary Blues,” “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “Montage of a Dream Deferred” (poems) William Carlos Williams, “To a Poor Old Woman,” “The Red Wheelbarrow,” “This Is Just to Say” (poems) Discussed in This Unit: Ezra Pound, “In a Station of the Metro,” The Cantos (poems) Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), The Walls Do Not Fall , Tribute to the Angels , The Flowering of the Rod (long poems); Pilate’s Wife , Asphodel , Her (prose pieces) Jean Toomer, Cane (novel containing both prose and poetry) Genevieve Taggard, “Everyday Alchemy,” “With Child,” “At Last the Women Are Moving” (poems) Carl Sandburg, “Chicago,” “Child of the Romans,” “Cool Tombs” (poems) Robert Frost, “Mowing,” “Mending Wall,” “After Apple-Picking,” “Stopping by Woods,” “Birches,” “Out, Out—,” “Design,” “The Gift Outright” (poems) Claude McKay, “If We Must Die,” “The Lynching” (poems); Home to Harlem (novel) Overview Questions n How did World War I affect the way that Americans imagined themselves? How is this change reflected in the writings of the era? n How do the authors in Unit 10 question or affirm individual identity? How do race and gender complicate what it means to be an American? n How do these writers use the vernacular? How does the idiom of Williams, for example, differ from that of Hughes? n How do these authors strive to broaden our concept of what it means to be American? How do they use different strategies to imagine and address marginalized peoples? n What qualities are common to all the writers in this unit? n How does the war affect the poetry of this pe- riod? How is this poetry also influenced by popular culture? n How do physical spaces influence this litera- ture? How does the American city, specifically Harlem and Chicago, shape the production of American poetry of the 1920s and 1930s? What events changed the face of American cities in the 1920s and 1930s? How are those changes reflected in the poetry? n Does American literature have to be written within the borders of the United States? How do we categorize the literature of expatriate writers? Does poetry have to use an American idiom to be consid- ered American? n How would you describe modernism, in con- trast to other literary movements you have encoun- tered or studied? What values and questions are reflected in the poetry of this movement? n How does the modernism of American poets writing in America differ from the modernism of those writing abroad? How do race and gender affect the way writers interpret modernism? What assumptions about literature have we inherited from the modernist poets? Can you see the mod- ernist legacy in contemporary writers? n How do the African American authors in this unit re-imagine American identity? How do they challenge the way history has been told and re- corded? What other myths about America are challenged by the poets in this unit? n How do the expatriate writers treat the ques- Unit 10 RHYTHMS IN POETRY From the Beat of Blues to the Sounds of Everyday Speech 2 UNIT 10, RHYTHMS IN POETRY
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UNIT 11, MODERNIST PORTRAITS 3 tion of American identity? Why does Greek mythol- ogy play a recurring role in American modernist verse? Learning Objectives After students have viewed the video, read the head- notes and literary selections in The Norton Anthol- ogy of American Literature , and explored related archival materials on the American Passages Web site, they should be able to 1. describe at least two different varieties of literary modernism and discuss how black and white modernist experiments may have influenced each other; 2. relate the historical and cultural developments and controversies of the time to poetry written between the world wars; 3. discuss how these authors imagine American identity; 4. analyze and compare basic poetic strategies such as the use of form, language, allusion, imagery, and rhythm in the poetry in this unit. Instructor Overview The opening decades of the twentieth century seemed to prove what Henry Adams and other his- torians had suspected: that technological change and social turmoil were propelling the West into unimaginable new territory, and that established ways of describing the human condition—including literary modes and strategies—were no longer appropriate. In 1903, modern aviation was little more than slapstick experiments with powered glid- ers on an empty beach; a dozen years later, in the middle of World War I, there were fleets of long- range lethal fighters in the air over battlefields where more soldiers would die than in any conflict in human history. Immediately after the armistice a pandemic of influenza killed millions more in their hometowns, and major American cities ran out of coffins. In the United States, which had been spared the immense devastation inflicted in the European the- aters of war, an economic boom brought heady hopes. Energized by new war-related technology, a pent-up demand for consumer goods, and an imper- ative to rebuild devastated landscapes in Belgium, France, and Italy, American heavy industry went to full throttle, offering high-paying jobs and setting off a migration of adventurous Americans, white and black, from small towns in the South to big cities in the East and Midwest. At the same time, disappointment, competition for work and for living space, and cross-cultural encounters brought new turmoil and violence. In the summer of 1919, dubbed the Red Summer, race riots and lynchings erupted in many cities across America. Despite the optimism so evident in the music, fashion, and popular culture of the 1920s, racial tensions continued to fester, and starry-eyed investing and spending created an eco- nomic bubble, which burst in 1929. In that year, a series of bank failures overseas and a crash of stock markets all over the world brought on the Great Depression, which lasted nearly a decade and af- fected every industrialized country in the world. The bleak economic times brought about a renewed political and social awareness, as writers like Carl Sandburg, William Inge, John Steinbeck, and Genevieve Taggard brought special attention to the plight of millions. By the end of the 1930s, the threat of a new war loomed, and the vibrant 1920s seemed a distant memory. Even before World War I, the artistic and literary communities of the West were haunted by a sense that new times required new ways of seeing and thinking. In Paris, the artistic practice of “cubism” appealed to many as a fresh way of representing the speed, diversity, and fragmentation of ordinary life. In the middle of the war, in a place called the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, experiments with “dadaism” challenged the arts and the individual mind to break free from the kind of logic that had carried European civilization into a storm of vio- lence. During and after the war, American poets, from the aristocratic T. S. Eliot to the young African American Langston Hughes, looked to such experi- mental art for guidance in expressing the pace of modernity. The modernist poets strove to reinvent the fundamentals of poetry, to answer Ezra Pound’s challenge to “make it new.” Influenced by visual art, primitivism, orientalism, and jazz, writers searched for a distinctly American idiom. What should a INSTRUCTOR OVERVIEW 3
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